By: Mike Schwisow | Government Relations Director, Columbia Basin Development League

Each year, by October 1st, Congress must enact 12 appropriations bills to fund the operation of the Federal Government for the next fiscal year. When Congress fails to get the bills passed, Continuing Resolutions (CR’s) are enacted to keep the government running until the final bills are enacted. Sometimes several CR’s are necessary before final agreement is reached.

Majority Republicans are working hard this year to meet the October 1st deadline and have chosen to package 9 of the 12 appropriations bills into three “minibuses” or omnibus bills to facilitate the process moving forward. The Energy & Water Development Appropriations bill, which funds the Bureau of Reclamation operations and capital projects, is in the first “minibus” to move forward. Both House and Senate have passed their versions of Energy & Water Development along with the Legislative and Military Construction & Veterans bills. A Conference Committee made up of House and Senate members has negotiated the difference and issued a Conference Report that is now ready to be voted on by the entire body. Once that happens it is sent to the President for final approval.

The Conference Report provides $1,391,992,000 for Water & Related Resources. The amount funds the administration’s budget request and provides an additional $394.6 million in additional FY19 funding. This extra money is directed to fund projects in several different categorical areas. Since Congress may not direct funds through earmarks when additional funds are provided Reclamation chooses which projects to fund on a competitive basis in the various categories. Reclamation will have 45 days following enactment of the bill to identify projects that will be funded.

The Conference Report directs that priority be given to advance and complete ongoing work; improve water supply reliability; improve water deliveries; enhance national, regional or local economic development; promote job growth; or address critical backlog maintenance and rehabilitation activities.

The first $750,000 in Federal funding for the Odessa Ground Water Replacement Program (OGWRP) came in the 2018 Fiscal Year budget through this process. With improvements to the OGWRP benefit/cost ratio in place, OGWRP is now positioned to complete for a share of this additional funding. The Washington Congressional delegation, particularly Senators Murray and Cantwell and Representatives McMorris Rodgers and Newhouse, have played a critical role in achieving access to Federal funding for OGWRP.

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